It was fun while it lasted.
With an eye on the first weekend in December and a date with the SEC championship game, the Big Blue Nation spent the week dreaming of an upset victory over Georgia and a shot at either LSU or Alabama.
But alas, the Wildcats flew to close to the national spotlight and got burned – roasted by a Bulldog team that ran for 331 yards, trampling Kentucky’s vaunted defense along the way. The Cats crashed to earth with much still to play for. They just won’t get an SEC East trophy for their troubles.
“They are pretty darned good,” Mark Stoops said of the Dawgs. “You have to give them credit.”
Credit Georgia for stuffing the Wildcats on their first possession, then grabbing a punt and returning it 65 yards to set up a touchdown. It was the first time this season an opponent has scored on its first possession against a Kentucky defense ranked #1 in the nation in scoring D.
The Cats held the Bulldogs to 89 yards rushing in the first half, than gave up a bloated 242 in the second. “I thought they moved us. They made us miss,” said Stoops.
It was a big swing and a miss for the Cats on a 20-yard scoring run by D’Andre Swift. Mike Edwards came streaking into the backfield, only to see Swift run right by him, passing Josh Allen on his way to the end zone. Kentucky’s best two players on defense never laid a glove on him.
And then there was the back-breaker. Swift, on the UGA 17-yard line midway through the third quarter, slipped through a seam and said good-bye. A swift 83 yards later, Swift scored. “The speed they have is definitely difficult to defend,” said Stoops. “It’s one of the reasons why they’ve been a top-five team the past two years.”
Think of the days Boom Williams would slip through the line and out-race everyone to pay dirt. It was like that and it came at a terrible time, putting Georgia up, 28-3. And still, the Wildcats kept fighting.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” said Stoops. “The fight is there.”
And now they have to take it out on Tennessee. The Wildcats are permitted 24 hours to feel sorry for themselves (they’d have the same amount of time to celebrate, had they won). Then it’s back to work.
“We have to keep getting better and move on to Tennessee,” said safety Davonte Robinson. “(We) can’t turn one loss into two.”
They managed to avoid that after a bitter loss at Texas A&M.
“We know where our heads are at, “ Allen said. “We know what we have to do next week. This game is in the past. We just gotta learn from our corrections and move on.”
And while they’re moving on, they need to figure out what’s going on with their run game. Granted, Georgia borrowed a blueprint page formulated by A&M and then borrowed by Vanderbilt and Missouri.
But Benny Snell once again faced a defensive box stuffed full and found little room to run, settling for 73 yards on 20 carries. Playing on an ankle he rolled late in the second quarter, Snell carried three times for just 12 yards in the second half.
That meant the Wildcats had to lean on the passing of Terry Wilson and he delivered, finishing 23-of-29 for 226 yards. He might have to do even more next week in Knoxville, as the Volunteers surely will throw a Big Orange wall at Snell.
“This team is special,” Wilson said. “I know we’ll win out.”
The Tennessee game ends SEC competition for the Cats, but they still have games scheduled with Middle Tennessee and the Louisville Cardinals, who were roasted themselves Saturday by Clemson, 77-16.
“We have to keep getting after it, keep working,” Wilson said. “We can’t get complacent and lazy and just stay united as a team. We’ll be fine.”
There could be so much more fun ahead. Sadly, it won’t happen in Atlanta on December 1.